Over 200 people gathered to explore the topic of economic investments in children at the Center for Child and Family Policy’s 10th anniversary celebration in March 2010. The half-day conference included a forum on the benefits of early childhood education in recessionary times. Featured speakers were J. Lawrence Aber, professor of applied psychology and public policy at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development; Ron Haskins, co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families; former N.C. Governor James B. Hunt, Jr.; and Marguerite Kondracke, president and chief executive officer of America’s Promise Alliance, who served as moderator.
Following a poster session showcasing Center research, the day concluded with a standing-room-only speech by Nobel Prize-winning economist James J. Heckman, who discussed the role of cognitive and non-cognitive skills in early childhood programs. Heckman argues that investments in early childhood programs yield the greatest dividends because of their lifelong effect on key non-cognitive skills. Social skills honed in early childhood, he argues, pave the way for skills such as determination and motivation, which contribute to success in life.
The Center for Child and Family Policy was created in 1998 to promote evidence-based approaches to important public policy issues affecting children and their families. Today the Center is a hub of research, teaching, policy engagement and service, with more than $7 million in yearly grant funding and 70 employees, including researchers, database analysts, interviewers, and project coordinators, plus more than 40 affiliated faculty fellows. Faculty and staff work to discover and evaluate strategies to improve outcomes for children and families and to share their discoveries with policymakers and public agencies.